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I am a working class white female who went from omnivore to vegan overnight in February of this year. The transition to a vegan diet was very easy for me (I was quite health conscious before and also lactose intolerant and not a huge meat eater) and I have embraced it. Becoming more consciously aware of the materials I use and how it impacts the environment, Earth, laborers from around the world, non human animals, etc has been a little more challenging and it has taken time to replace all my animal derived clothes, shoes, toiletries, cleaning products, supplements, etc with fair trade less harmful materials that do not include the exploitation of animals and humans whevere possible. I am not rich by any means and I do not live in the most diverse community. What has been the most challenging for me however is to become more aware of and begin to question my own beliefs, values, convictions, daily actions and choices and what truly motivates me, as well as the system I live in. Being vegan is so much more than living without the use of animal products. It challenges one on every level of living and being.
In exploring different aspects of veganism (animal welfare, abolitionist approach, sexual politics, health, etc) I came across "Sistah Vegan" and I devoured this book! What a refreshing, eye opening, different perspective! The stories in Sistah Vegan are all unique, told with conviction and honesty and raw experience, not refined academic rhetoric coming from some privileged well respected guru. These are women walking the walk, telling it like it is, struggling against roadblocks so many of us in Western culture take for granted. They refuse to be ashamed of their sexuality, spirituality, culture, bodies, gentleness, reverence for life... I love what Tara Sophia Bahna-James shares in the chapter "Journey Toward Compassionate Choice" where she says "I owe it to others like me to stand up and declare that I exist". So many perspectives like this resonate with me. I am shy, introverted, poor, small, struggling with an emotional disorder and the world is not a nice place and you really have to be loud to be heard. Being vegan can be a marginalizing experience in a society laden with violence, apathy, self gratification, and materialism/consumerism but it also opens doors and minds and hearts and it strengthens ones commitment to live in line with ones values. These women provide living examples of just how they do this.
These women also challenge the world to see that veganism isnt just about animal rights, and that vegans aren't all stereotypical rich white skinny hippy types. It brings to the table an important aspect of food (and other material) consumption. It isnt just about personal health or survival or enjoyment/pleasure. It isnt about subscribing to a fad diet or one that is the "best" for health/environment etc. It isnt just about where our food comes from and how animals and laborers suffer for it. This book uncovers the just under the surface economic, political, cultural, racist, sexist, and ethical issues that represent and influence our food choices and resources. Food is indeed a weapon used for centuries to control groups of people and animals and used for greed, profit, self interest, hate, religious bias, power, etc. but also is a source of healing, cultural identity, life. Like it or not what we put into our mouth has a profound effect on not only our own health but the whole world. It represents our struggles and our identity as individuals and collective groups and what we value and where we came from but also what direction we are moving toward. "Sistah Vegan" illustrates this beautifully. I am only saddened that this book is not right out there on the shelves among "mainstream" vegan books like "Skinny Bitch" or "Animal Liberation". It's up to the readers of this book to spread this awesome message. I intend to make this book known wherever possible and to pass it on, perhaps donate it to a second hand store to help educate some other poor soul living in a still very oppresive culture with a lack of resources to make more informed choices. Maybe I will order a few more and spread them around to community centers as well! This books if very readable and approachable, unlike other vegan philosophical books that can be dry and academic. Thanks A. Breeze Harper for this important work!